March 25, 2016

Just a Closer Walk with Jesus

I have lived in Knoxville for going on 16 years. For the first five of them I lived on campus while attending the University of Tennessee. Then I moved to a condo just one mile away from campus and stayed there ten more years. Where I used to live, there were lots of trees all around and I hardly ever got a great view of the sky.

Since moving to our house last summer I feel like we have gotten a new taste of our city. This is kind of funny because we only moved about five miles away.

There's a spot where we top a hill as we're driving towards downtown and you can see a wide expanse of the beautiful mountains and the sky. The other morning, my husband and I were headed somewhere pretty early. We came to that spot and were presented with the most beautiful view. The sun was still coming up and the sky was all shades of pink and red and yellow and gold.

And I said to my husband, "This must have been what it looked like on Easter morning because all was right with the world again."

Easter has significance for me for many different reasons. First, because of my faith....believing that we were once without hope, without a future, and knowing that because of Easter our hope is restored. Our peace with God. Our eternal life. Just knowing that everything is going to be okay.

Easter holds other significance for me because it is the day my sweet dog Leon crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. It's really hard to believe that an entire year has passed since he died.

I guess I should give you some back story. My husband is very playful and loves to do all sorts of funny voices. Each dog that we have had has been given its own unique voice that was created by my husband based on what he felt its personality was. My Leon had the sweetest personality, and his "voice" matched him perfectly. I am forever grateful to my husband for bringing that to life.

If this sounds crazy to you, you are not alone. We have started seeing a marriage counselor and when we shared this with him, I immediately sensed that he might have been writing down "whole new level of crazy." 

But the thing about it is, crazy or not, we loved our dog.

And even though a year has passed, sometimes it doesn't feel any easier that he isn't with us. So on those days, when I'm missing him really bad, it helps that my husband can still bring his voice to life.

Okay, so here's where we take things to the next generation level of our minds, Leon is in heaven. With Jesus. And we imagine them having all sorts of adventures. Like playing Scrabble, visiting Saturn, and eating pizza together. And in our little wacky world, my husband even does a voice for Jesus that sounds very much like Hank from King of the Hill.

But here's the thing...I thought doing this would help me feel more peace about Leon. But instead, it has helped me feel more peace about Jesus. Not that I ever didn't feel peace about Him, but growing up, seeing him as that long-haired, bearded guy in a robe on the Sunday school lesson, Jesus always seemed like this stranger that I didn't really know.

Picturing him traipsing around heaven with our dog in tow has made him real to me in a new way.

Recently, I thanked my husband for making up this little fantasy because of how it had helped me deal with my grief. He said that it wasn't just a fantasy to him...that he really did believe Leon was with Jesus. And all our other friends and loved ones who have gone on before us.

Heaven is a real place. It's not just something we've created to make ourselves feel better. I know it's real and I know my loved ones are there. And because of Easter, I can one day see them again.

Even though faith is something many of us share, it's also very personal. When I was young, I had a book called "Little Talks Between God & You." It made it seem so easy to talk to God, and now, three decades later, I still see him as someone I can have little talks with.

I don't want God and Jesus to be something I only "experience" in a church building. And I hope you don't think you have to go to a church building to experience them. Sunday, we will celebrate Easter with family at church. And I'm sure I'll be sad because it will mark the anniversary of my boy's passing. But if my husband really believes we'll see him again, playing his trumpet in heaven, I can believe it too.